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Pacific edition, Friday, September 28, 2007

They could just as easily be 3-0 as 1-2. But it’s not the losses that rankle Edgren. It’s the way they went down to defeat in their past two games that bothers the Eagles.

Edgren fell 20-19 at Zama on Sept. 14 and eight days later tumbled 13-12 at home against eight-time defending Japan Football League champion Yokota.

In each of those defeats, Edgren got within a point on fourth-quarter touchdown runs by fullback Andrew Blankenship only to come up short on two-point conversion attempts.

“I can handle that pressure. I’m the coach,” Edgren’s Chris Waite said. “I’m worried about it affecting the kids. They played hard. They played well enough to win.”

Should Waite have decided to kick the extra point for the tie and taken his chances in overtime?

“I don’t want to second-guess whether I should have gone for two each time,” he said. “But a good coach is forced to consider whether he made the right decision, learn from it and move on.”

“Moving on” means heading to Yokosuka Naval Base to face the one team the Eagles have beaten, Kinnick. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Yokosuka’s Berkey Field.

Elsewhere Friday, Yokota visits Zama at Atsugi Naval Air Facility, with the host Trojans trying for their first victory over Yokota since 1998 and the Panthers trying to extend their Pacific-record regular-season winning streak to 44. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

In South Korea, Seoul American looks for its ninth straight victory when it visits Osan American at 6 p.m. Friday.

On Saturday, Guam High vies for its first victory over four-time island champion George Washington in a battle of 2-2 teams; kickoff is at 7 p.m. at GW Field.

As part of his preparation, Waite says he’s issued his charges two challenges. “One is that they come together and not let the loss divide them. The other is when we go down to Kinnick, in Naval terms, we need to right the ship,” Waite said.

On Aug. 31 at Misawa Air Base, Edgren got two second-half touchdown runs and 305 all-purpose yards from quarterback Zach Latimore in a 20-7 victory over the Red Devils.

Latimore and the Eagles will face a much different Red Devils team than the one that tried to go almost exclusively through the air in their first meeting.

Sophomore Tyree Hunt has burned opponents for 563 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns on 62 touches – including 253 yards and five TDs on 18 carries in Kinnick’s come-from-behind, 36-20 victory at Zama.

“He’ll be a focal point for our defense,” Waite said of Hunt.

It will also be the first game in JFL history played on an artificial surface – Berkey Field, the Red Devils’ home stadium, added FieldTurf over the summer. Two Kanto Plain games have been contested at American School In Japan’s Mustang Valley, which also went to FieldTurf this year.

“That’s something I’m very curious about,” Waite said. “Obviously, the kids will have to bring two pairs of shoes.”

Kinnick coach Gary Wilson knows his team will have plenty to handle in Latimore and fellow senior back Jacque Moton, who has scored four touchdowns this season. And he feels Edgren will be more motivated than dejected by the two tough losses.

“I expect them to come out firing and ready to play,” Wilson said. “We’re going to have our hands full. Coming off those two losses, I’ve been telling my guys that those guys are going to be hungry. I don’t expect them (Eagles) to miss a beat having lost those two games.”

Though Blankenship has run tough and Moton is a breakaway threat on every play, Wilson expects his defense to key more on Latimore than anybody else. The team that makes the fewest mistakes, Wilson said, will come out on top.

“We’re expecting a close, tight battle,” Wilson said.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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